Windows Phone 8 is what can best be described as a slow-moving success. Each quarter, it gains just a little more ground, and now sits at about 5% of the smartphone market. Considering that it has essentially one OEM, that's not too shabby, but it does pale in comparison to Samsung and Apple.
Microsoft moved rather quickly with Windows Phone 8 and 8.5, bringing the same kernel and vital code from the desktop OS to the phone. The strategy was to share as much code across phone, tablet and PC platforms and make porting code as easy as possible.
Since then, there has been very little discussion on Windows Phone as Microsoft tries to beef up its app store and gain some market share. Nothing came out at the recent Build conference either, but one Russian blogger claims to know what's going on.
Eldar Murtazin of Mobile Review writes (Google translation of Russian) that the next version of Windows Phone will be both a tablet and smartphone operating system and that Microsoft plans to ditch the existing code and start over almost from scratch.
"I can say with accuracy that once again we will be offered a different vision of UI (Metro UI will not be able to admit a mistake, it is too actively advertised, but the next version will probably be different). At the moment, the new interface does not exist, as well as the demands generated by the OS, but it is certain that the first time Microsoft will try to create a system that will operate initially as on smartphones and tablets.," wrote Murtazin.
Ok, let's pick that apart. The Modern UI is being tossed but there is no replacement as of yet. I don't know how long or how much time UI development takes, but there has to be a secondary consideration: what will this do to apps? There are 145,000 Windows Phone 8 apps out there and Microsoft cannot break them and hope to keep people from throwing their hands up and walking away.
Second, if Microsoft wants to keep WP in sync with PCs, then you would have to figure on a 2015 release date. Microsoft has committed to a three-year release cycle for its PC operating system. Windows 7 came in 2009, Windows 8 came in 2012. So 2015 is the unofficial target date. Will they really leave WP 8.5 on the market, unchanged, for two more years? They will at the very least have to make some kind of updates.
Mobile Review indicates that the clean sheet OS is for WP and tablets, not PCs. This would indicate that Microsoft is backtracking on the unified OS from phone to desktop. That would be a smart move. They should have stuck with the Apple strategy of one OS for the handhelds and one OS for the computers.
Of course, this could all be an exercise in futility. I don't know the accuracy rate of this Russian blog on prior scoops. He could be playing us. And a lot can change in the next few years. Still, it's an interesting thought, and it would be a huge admission of a mistake on Microsoft's part to acknowledge the mistake that was the Modern UI. We'll have to watch this one.